Obviously, a wedding is often the beginning of a new chapter of happiness and joy, but that beginning can be rocky when the wedding reception, a time for merriment and joy, turns ugly due to food poisoning.
On September 2, 2022, that is what happened to Anthony S. and Emily B., according to a salmonella lawsuit filed in Texas against Lost Mission, a popular wedding venue in Comal County, Texas. Lost Mission provided the food for the reception which consisted of (among other things) chicken piccata, angel hair pasta, and green beans almondine. It is reported that about 300 guests attended the wedding with over 60 later reporting having become very ill. A number of the guests tested positive for an identical strain of Salmonella Saintpaul, and the Texas Department of State Health Services (“TDSHS”) determined that the likely cause of the outbreak was improper preparation of the food by Lost Mission. TDSHS identified the outbreak in the National Outbreak Reporting System as Salmonella/0922/Comal/01.
Now, the Idaho Department of Health (IDH) and the Southwest District Health Department (SWDH) are investigating an outbreak of enterotoxigenic E. coli (ETEC) that followed an August 27, 2022 wedding held at the Mint Barrel Barn and catered by Horsewood Catering. At this wedding, be attended by between 100-110 guests, nearly half reported having become ill. Horsewood Catering is believed to have served tri-tip beef, garlic mashed potatoes, gravy, cauliflower cheese, salad, huckleberry butter, bread, chicken strips, and fries. An assortment of desserts were also provided (mostly from Albertsons). Most of the victims became ill late that evening or over the next 48 hours. The state lab was used to test leftovers, and on September 14th, the state lab identified the bacteria on leftover tri-tip and the cauliflower. IDH named recorded the outbreak as state ID “2022-076.”
Both weddings will likely be remembered for the good things that happened, and fortunately none of the victims passed due to acquiring food poisoning. But these are also as stark reminder of the difficulties and challenges of maintaining safe food in the context of catering and serving large numbers of people. The majority of the people at a wedding are not paying attention to food safety, having many other things to be concerned about. That is why the burden falls on the caterer, who is charged with providing good, and safe, food. And while every caterer should know how to do so, here are a few reminders:
- Always pick an experienced caterer with a good track-record;
- Carefully select foods that are well cooked and safe from bacterial contamination (avoid things like raw meats, sprouts);
- Make sure food is kept warm or hot – remember the 40 – 140 rule;
- DO not leave food out at room temperatures for over 120 minutes, less if the weather is hot; and
- Discard leftovers within 48 hours EVEN IF they are kept refrigerated.
A Wedding should be a time to celebrate with family and friends. Paying attention to food safety can go a long way towards making the day that much more special.